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Nicole Ellis

Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA

Celebrity Dog Trainer & Author

After a childhood of horse-riding and pet obsession, Nicole Ellis studied with top animal trainers working with everything from exotic animals, such as bears and big cats, to household pets. During her studies, she realized her true mission was training other humans in strengthening their human-pet bonds. Alongside her rescue Bichon / Poodle mix, Maggie, she uses positive reinforcement training to teach pets new skills and healthy behaviors. Ellis stars as a celebrity dog trainer on The Pack (Amazon Prime) and travels to hospitals and nonprofit orgs with Maggie to educate. Maggie was also was the inspiration behind Ellis’s book, Working Like a Dog

What inspired you to work with animals?

My parents were both huge animal lovers. Being an only child, I grew up with dogs as my siblings, and we treated them as part of the family. They were the ones I shared my secrets with, read bedtime stories to, and so much more. As an adult, I wanted to help others create and grow a bond with their pets as part of the family. 

I grew up riding horses, bonding with family pets, and I was always the fearless kid in the class who volunteered to hold the giant boa constrictor or pet the cheetah (didn’t every kid want to pet a cheetah?). I went on to study animal training with top trainers, learning to work with everything from exotics, like bears and big cats, to household pets, like dogs and cats.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that my mission as a trainer was actually to train other humans to strengthen their bonds with their pets through positive training and mutual understanding. Happier owners mean happier pets, and then hopefully fewer unwanted pets will end up on the streets and in city shelters — that was my thinking, anyway. 

What is your training biz’s mission/philosophy?

Create a better bond and new adventures with your pet. Through positive reinforcement training — meaning it’s always fun and rewarding for the pet — we can teach them new skills, how to handle stress, how to be well-behaving canine members of society to allow them to join us on many of life’s adventures.

What keeps you motivated to help pets (and their parents)?

My Maggie came from a local animal shelter in Los Angeles, California, and became my animal training ambassador. In addition to working in commercials and movies, Maggie knows over one hundred behaviors; she’s performed at hospitals around the US, charity fundraisers, and on TV, and was the inspiration behind my book Working Like a Dog. Imagine if everyone spent a few minutes a day training their dogs…we could have less dogs in our shelters and more in loving homes. Knowing that inspires me to help others and their pets.

I’ve trained everything from bears to whales, but my favorite of all of them is Maggie. After all, she is the reason I wanted to help others train and bond with their dogs.

What is your best piece of advice to pet parents?

Commit to a few minutes a day of training. A little training can go a long way in not only your pet’s behavior, but also your bond together. Instead of reprimanding your dog, think what behavior you’d rather your dog does (like sitting when you enter the door instead of jumping up) and instead begin asking for and rewarding that behavior.

What’s the wildest part of your job?

On movie and TV sets, we live and create the extra-ordinary, which means teaching my dogs lots of random silly behaviors and tricks for the craziest situations, from standing still while 5,000 balloons fall to riding a bicycle down the Venice board walk. Movie production work allows me to be creative, innovative, and — best of all — a little bit wild.